earth 30858
Episode 6.09
It's a Jungle Out There
by Slidemania
Disclaimer: The Sliders television series' characters and storylines are property of Universal and St. Clare Entertainment, series creator Tracy Tormé and Fox Broadcasting Network and The Sci-Fi Channel. No copyright infringement is intended and no monetary profit is being made off of this work. All other characters who are not found on the Sliders television series were created by me, and should only be used with my prior permission. Posting to archives is encouraged as long as my name and title stay with the story.

Author's Note: Beware of spoilers. This story is part of my Season 6 Sliders series, picking up where the episode "The Seer" leaves off. You should be familiar with most, if not all, of the original Sliders series, as well as the preceding episodes of my fanfiction, before reading this story.

* * *

Mallory shuffled uneasily, seated in the stuffy courtroom. Next to him sat his court-appointed lawyer, Defense Attorney Diana Davis. This Diana was, of course, an alternate version of the Diana whom Mallory regularly slid with.

"Now you just let me do all the talking, you hear?" Alternate Diana authoritatively instructed her client.

"I didn't do anything wrong!" Mallory hissed back at his lawyer. "It was my double . . ."

". . . your double from an alternate universe. Yeah, yeah, yeah! You told me this already!" Alternate Diana rolled her eyes, speaking to Mallory like he was a child. "But here's a slap of reality for you - - pick-pocketing is a serious offense on this planet. And Judge Schiendlin isn't going to be amused by your cute little fairy tales. Now as I was saying, let me do all the talking!"

Mallory sighed, turned his head around, and glanced back at Maggie and Malcolm, who were watching from the court audience behind them. Maggie cradled the timer in her arms; the device was partially hidden by Maggie's silk crimson blouse. Turning back to face the judge's bench, Mallory smacked himself on the side of his head. Only a few hours on this Earth and he had managed to get himself arrested for a crime actually committed by his duplicate self.

"They'd better get here soon," Maggie whispered to Malcolm, from where the two of them sat along with the other spectators. "We're down to only a few minutes until the window opens."

A husky, uniformed male bailiff with a crew cut, a mustache, and creamy dark skin faced the courtroom to address the spectators.

"All rise!" commanded Bailiff Petri Hawkins-Byrd. "Court is now in session. The honorable Judge Judith Schiendlin presiding."

A red-haired judge who appeared to be in her fifties emerged from her chambers. She wore a long black judge's robe, the neck rimmed with an unconventional white lace collar. The judge marched up to the bench with a no-nonsense attitude and took her seat, facing the court.

"Your honor," continued Hawkins-Byrd, "this is case number 1,957 in the matter of the State of California versus Quinn Mallory. Parties have been sworn in, judge." He now addressed the D.A. and the Defense. "You may be seated."

"Thanks, Byrd," grunted Judge Judy Schiendlin, putting on her eyeglasses to read the documents in front of her. "Mr. Mallory, you have been charged with first-degree pick-pocketing of a pedestrian . . ."

"Your honor," the District Attorney interrupted, standing up. She was a conservatively dressed woman with short, brown, curly hair.

"Yes Ms. Clark," Judge Judy acknowledged District Attorney Marcia Clark.

Marcia Clark cleared her throat. "I'd also like to add that Mr. Mallory was additionally charged with resisting arrest."

"Hey, that cop enjoyed frisking me way too much!" protested Mallory.

"Shut up!" Judge Judy spat at Mallory.

Alternate Diana impatiently elbowed Mallory in the stomach.

Judge Judy Schiendlin waved at Marcia Clark to sit down. "Fine. So noted by the court." She turned toward Mallory's direction. "Mr. Mallory, how do you plead?"

Mallory stood up and declaratively said, "Absolutely one-hundred percent ‘not guilty', your honor."

"Oh, give me a break!" huffed Marcia Clark, sneering at Mallory's statement.

Judge Judy banged down her gavel. "Ms. Clark," she spoke warningly, viciously glaring at the District Attorney. "I have a very short fuse today. My husband ate the last bagel this morning."

"I'm sorry to hear that, your honor." Marcia Clark clammed up, plopping back down into her chair.

The judge refocused her attention on Mallory. "I read your deposition, Mr. Mallory, and let me see if I have this correct. You claim that the crime-in-question was not committed by you, but rather, by your ‘double' from a parallel universe?"

Mallory nodded. "That is correct, your honor."

Judge Judy crossed her eyes. "Baloney!" she shouted. "I don't believe that! So tell me, Mr. Mallory, why you feel the need to lie under oath in MY courtroom?"

Alternate Diana stood up. "Your honor, my client has a history of mental illness . . ."

"Ms. Davis!" blared Judge Judy, cutting off the defense attorney. "I'm losing my temper very quickly! I want to hear directly from your client himself. Now shut your trap and keep it closed!"

Alternate Diana bit her lip.

Maggie leaned over and showed Malcolm the timer's display panel. Less than a couple of minutes remained.

"They'll be here," Malcolm assured Maggie. "I know they will. Remmy will come through for us."

"They'd better," murmured Maggie in a low voice. "Because if they don't, Mallory's toast. I've seen this judge on TV. She can be a real bitch."

"I heard that!" Judge Judy cast a murderous scowl straight at Maggie.

Captain Beckett was flabbergasted. All she could do was babble incoherently.

Suddenly, the courtroom doors burst open. Rembrandt, Diana, and Janine charged into the courtroom, each of them armed with a machine gun.

"Everyone take it nice and easy," Rembrandt loudly spoke out, pointing his gun at the guards. "How much time, Maggie?"

"Just under a minute," Maggie called back to Remmy. She and Malcolm stood up. The spectators chattered in confused commotion.

Judge Judy irately pounded her gavel down several times. "Who the hell are you people?!"

"Sorry there, judge." Diana aimed her weapon at Judge Judy. "We'll just be on our way after we collect our friends . . . hey, haven't I seen you somewhere on TV before?!"

Alternate Diana jumped up, and Diana nearly fainted, startled by the mirror image of herself as a lawyer.

"Is this some kind of sick joke?!" Alternate Diana demanded, facing her double.

Maggie walked up next to Diana and Janine. "Twenty seconds, people."

Mallory joined his friends. "These, your honor, are my fellow interdimensional travelers."

Judge Judy narrowed her eyes and pointed to her forehead. "Does it say ‘stupid' here?!" she asked him rhetorically.

"Yes it does," muttered Janine.

"You're out of order, young lady!" Judge Judy yelled at Janine, slamming down her gavel again.

Janine twitched, not amused. "Don't blow a gasket, red," she talked down to the judge. "We'll be out of your way in a moment."

"Four . . . three . . . two . . . one!" Maggie counted down, activating the vortex as soon as the timer hit zero.

The sliders' massive wormhole with its luminous pink hues appeared in the middle of the courtroom. Maggie and Mallory jumped in, followed by Janine, Diana, and Malcolm.

Rembrandt backed toward the wormhole, still maneuvering his machine gun at the guards. "It's been a blast!" the Cryin' Man bid them farewell. He leaped into the vortex, headfirst.

As the wormhole began to close, Judge Judy shook her fist after the departed sliders and shouted, "I'm the boss, applesauce!"

The echoes of her grating vocals managed to resonate behind them across the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky Bridge.

* * *

"Wheeeeeeeeee!!!" whooped Mallory, falling out of the vortex and landing with a splash in a misty lagoon of water, his arms outstretched above his head as though it was an amusement park ride.

Maggie tumbled from the wormhole next, making a gigantic splash beside Mallory in the pool of water. She shrieked as the cascading agua of a waterfall behind them drenched her thoroughly.

Mallory laughed at Maggie and splashed a wave of the lagoon water toward her. In retaliation, Maggie shoved Mallory headfirst into the shallow lagoon.

Janine then came flying out of the vortex at a bizarre angle, landing abruptly on a patch of dry grass alongside the lagoon. Diana shot out of the portal right after Janine, and crashed into a nearby bush. Next emerged Malcolm, his body "logrolling" several times after a rough landing on the grass not far from Janine. Finally Rembrandt dropped out of the wormhole, his body thrust under the shade of a strange-looking leafy tree.

"That was wild!" exclaimed a sopping wet Mallory, trudging out of the lagoon with Maggie at his heels.

"It's a good thing this timer is waterproof like our old one," Maggie remarked, holding up the still-functional apparatus. "Remember that time when the wormhole opened up underwater?"

Rembrandt hooted with laughter as he helped Diana out of the bush. "Yeah, good thing Fog Boy here taught me how to swim a few weeks earlier. Otherwise I would have drowned in the Pacific faster than the Titanic."

"The Titanic submerged in the Atlantic Ocean, nimrod!" Janine reminded Remmy, picking up her machine gun that had been obtained from the last world.

Malcolm stood on his feet and took in the surroundings. "Looks like we're in some kind of jungle."

"Oh boy, this place sure seems familiar," Maggie ominously observed.

Diana offered her gun to Maggie. "You take this . . . you can make better use of it than me." Maggie accepted Diana's machine gun, and in exchange traded off the timer to Diana.

Screeches could be heard coming from within the jungle they'd slid into. Animal-like shrieks echoed across the vicinity.

Rembrandt gave Maggie an anxious side-glance. "You don't think? . . . what would be the odds? . . ."

"We've landed on the same world twice before, Rem," pointed out Maggie. "Knowing our luck, I wouldn't be surprised."

"What? Where are we?" demanded Janine.

Suddenly, a large, hairy beast leaped downward from the sky, relentlessly pouncing on Mallory. The young man shouted as the animal clawed at his shirt; Maggie instinctively aimed her gun at the creature's head and fired. It slumped over, dead.

"Mallory, are you okay?" Malcolm rushed over to Mallory's side. Mallory was dazed from the attack.

Diana squinted at the dead beast. "What is that thing?"

Maggie sighed. "It's a human/animal hybrid. We've been to this world before."

"Huminals," Rembrandt provided. "That's what Dr. Vargas called them."

"And who is Dr. Vargas?" Janine solicited, taking a moment to grimace at the dead huminal.

"A mad scientist. He created these hybrids as part of his experiments." Rembrandt winced. "He was a freakin' lunatic, trying to play God!"

"Well there are obviously more of these freaks in the jungle," Mallory said, as Malcolm helped him to his feet. "How are we going to face them?"

"We have no choice. If we stay in this spot, more of them will be able to surround us and gang up on us," Maggie stated. "We need to find a safe place to take cover until the next slide."

"Which is in 4 hours and 20 minutes," Diana informed them, holding up the timer.

"Okay, we've got three guns between the six of us," Rembrandt took inventory.

"I say Remmy, Maggie, and Janine hold onto the guns," suggested Diana.

"Hey, I want a gun too!" Mallory complained. "I don't need anymore of those monsters jumping on me. Janine, give me your gun."

"So I can become animal-chow? No way!" refused Janine. She tightened her grip on the weapon. "I'll watch your back, Mallory. But you'll have to pry this sucker out of my cold dead hands!"

Maggie tilted her head and snorted, amused. "Janine with a machine gun. If that doesn't scare away the huminals, nothing will."

Janine tossed back her long, black hair. "You know it!" she agreed.

"Can we get out of here already?" Malcolm asked. "I just wanna hide out from these . . . huminals."

As the six sliders headed into the jungle, unbeknownst to them, a hairy figure was watching them from the shadows.

* * *

Rembrandt pulled back the trigger and fired, killing a huminal who'd been unexpectedly charging toward the group from out of the brush.

"Man, these freaks are everywhere!" winced Malcolm.

At that moment, a hairy beast dropped from above with a lion's roar, landing in Malcolm's path and lunging at the teen.

As Malcolm yelled out in fear, Janine shot the lion-like huminal in its chest. It fell to the ground.

"We'd better hurry." Maggie positioned her gun with the agility and alertness of a trained Marine. "We'll only be able to fend off these huminals for so long before we run out of ammo."

"Don't knock on wood, Maggie," pleaded Mallory, standing close to Remmy as they blazed their way through the thick, fertile jungle.

"One sliver lining," Rembrandt brought up, "is at least Dr. Vargas probably got mauled to death. Last time I was leaving his domain, Rickman and his posse of ‘Planet of the Apes' rejects were raiding Vargas' compound."

Another hybrid creature jumped down from the trees, right in front of Diana's path. Diana shrieked, and Maggie fired at the huminal's neck, blowing its head off.

"I think we'd better run!" Mallory called out. The grunts and wild calls of hybrids from above them rang out across the jungle.

"Hurry!" Janine motioned at the three unarmed sliders. She, Maggie, and Rembrandt then began firing their ammunition at the fleet of huminals that chased after them.

Mallory led the way, almost tripping over a dead corpse as he sprinted like crazy. "I sure hope it isn't mating season out here!"

"Come on, Malcolm!" Diana protectively hurried Malcolm along, the two of them sticking close to Mallory.

Before long, the huminals' screeching died down. The hybrids were obviously backing off, intimidated by the strong defense of gunfire which Maggie, Rembrandt, and Janine had presented them with. Eventually, all six sliders met up together by the side of a crystal clear babbling brook.

"I could use a drink," Malcolm said, panting and sweating heavily from the exhausting chase. He bent down by the edge of the brook.

Rembrandt reached down and stopped Malcolm from dipping his hands in the stream of water. "Hold on, partner. How do we know this water is safe to drink?"

"It is safe, Rembrandt," came a soft, feminine voice. A curvy female figure waded across the surface of the water toward Remmy and Malcolm, gradually exposing herself to better view.

"Alisandra?" Rembrandt gasped, recognizing the lovely creature before him.

Standing there completely in the nude was a voluptuous female huminal, a radiant combination of human and feline. Alisandra's long black hair hung loosely down past her waist, and patched of leopard skin graced various areas of her body, most prominently upon her forehead.

"Hello Rembrandt." Smiling, Alisandra ascended from the brook and stood only inches away from Rembrandt, facing him.

"Damn, cover up, girl!" Embarrassed for the dignity of this woman whom he cared about, Rembrandt stood in front of Alisandra, blocking her exposure to the other sliders.

"Shut up, Rembrandt!" whined Janine, who'd been having a tantalizing time admiring Alisandra's body along with Mallory. "Let the lady walk around in her birthday suit if that's what tickles her pickle."

Alisandra laughed. "Nudity is nothing to be ashamed of. But I was about to dry myself off." She sashayed over to a nearby tree where she'd hung a brown fleece robe from a branch. Wrapping herself in the robe, Alisandra smiled affectionately at Rembrandt.

Mallory was practically drooling all over Alisandra by now. The human/feline woman had her robe halfway on.

"Here, let me help you with that," he eagerly offered, moving toward Alisandra.

"Mallory!" grunted Rembrandt in a warning tone.

Diana stared at Alisandra's exotic physique, her mouth wide open in astonishment. "What kind of creature are you?"

"Hey, I remember you!" Maggie's recognition of Alisandra suddenly surfaced. "We met you at Vargas' compound."

"Yes, I am the former servant and . . . love slave of Dr. Vargas," admitted Alisandra, her eyes bashfully dropping to the ground. "But he is no more. Dr. Vargas was killed a long time ago by the very creatures whom he created."

"Good riddance," muttered Remmy.

"To answer your question," Alisandra addressed Diana, "my master - - my former master, once told me I was derived from a combination of . . . DNA belonging to a human and a leopard."

Malcolm had been kneeling by the water's edge thirstily quenching himself with water from the street, immersing his lips in his cupped palms which were filled with the satisfying pure liquid. Once he'd finished, Malcolm turned his attention back to Rembrandt, Alisandra, and the others. "Remmy, you know her?" he gestured to Alisandra.

"Yeah, she and I go a long way back," Rembrandt grinned, placing his arm gently around Alisandra.

"Come," Alisandra invited the sliders. "I will take you back to my new home."

* * *

"We are here," announced Alisandra. She and the sliders had reached a sturdy hut made from bamboo and jungle vines. "This is where I live now."

"It's about time. This place is giving me the creeps," complained Janine, glancing back at the jungle, from which hyena-like screeches and cries echoed. "It's like ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau' around here!"

"Dr. Moreau? I've never met him." Alisandra looked confused.

"Trust me, you don't want to," Rembrandt said, touching Alisandra lightly on her arm. "Care to invite us in?"

"Of course." Alisandra led Remmy, Maggie, Diana, Mallory, Janine, and Malcolm into the inside of her firmly-built hut.

Hunched in one corner of Alisandra's domain was another female huminal, a dainty creature with a delicate, elongated neck. Parts of this female hybrid's skin were patterned and textured like the skin of a giraffe.

"This is my friend, Libra," Alisandra told the sliders. "Libra," she said to her roommate, "this is Rembrandt, my friend from long ago whom I told you about, and his traveling companions."

Libra smiled shyly at all of them. "Pleased to meet you," she sheepishly spoke, almost in a scared, frail whisper. Libra's hair was a soft shade of blond, even lighter than Maggie's. Her skin looked smooth and velvety, and Libra's baby blue eyes sparkled angelically. She wore a rumpled, ragged cloak made from soft material.

Malcolm noticed that one of Libra's bare knees was red and swollen. "What happened to your leg?" he asked her.

Libra sniffled in response; a solitary tear trickled down her cheek.

Alisandra kneeled down next to Libra. "Do you still feel hurt?"

Libra nodded silently.

Alisandra turned to the others. "She hurt herself this morning while we were searching for food."

"Do you know of any remedy to help heal her wound?" inquired Diana, sitting next to Libra and examining her knee.

"Yes," Alisandra replied. "I can fetch some aloe. It will help Libra to heal. But the aloe grows on this other side of the jungle. I must go to bring it back."

"You're not going out there alone," Rembrandt placed his hand on Alisandra. "Those goons might have been watching us. If they saw us leave with you, and you go back out there, they could capture you to lure us back into the jungle."

"Rembrandt, Libra is hurting. I must go . . ."

Remmy put his finger against Alisandra's lips, indicating for her to hush. "Then I'll go with you."

"Are you crazy?!" Maggie piped up. "Rem, you can't go back out there."

"Well I'm not letting Alisandra go alone!"

"Then I'll go with you," declared Maggie. She held up her weapon. "Two guns are better than one."

"I'm going too," blurted out Malcolm.

"Oh no you're not!" Rembrandt came over to Malcolm. "It's too dangerous, and I don't want you getting hurt."

"I don't want you getting hurt either," Malcolm insisted. "That's why I'm coming with. We can keep an eye on each other."

"Malcolm . . ."

"I'm coming with, Remmy!" Malcolm stubbornly persisted.

"I'll keep my eye on him, Rem," Maggie assured her friend.

Rembrandt knew there was no use arguing. Malcolm had made up his mind; he was too afraid to let Rembrandt out of his sight.

"We'll stay here with Libra," Mallory said.

Diana had begun massaging Libra's leg, trying to soothe the huminal's pain. Janine cocked her machine gun in her arms, positioning it in preparation for any unwelcome intruders.

"We'll be back as soon as we can," Rembrandt said. "If we're not back an hour before the slide, come searching for us. If you can't find us," he looked at Diana, "you know what to do." Rembrandt headed off back into the jungle toting his machine gun. Maggie, armed with her own gun, and Malcolm and Alisandra followed.

* * *

"Rembrandt, I am glad you returned," Alisandra lilted, clinging ahold of Remmy's shoulder. "I have been feeling . . . lonely."

"You have Libra to keep you company," Rembrandt spoke softly, leaning down to give Alisandra a tender kiss on her forehead.

"Yes . . .Libra is a good friend," admitted Alisandra. "But she cannot . . . satisfy my . . . needs the way you can."

Rembrandt blushed.

"I think Remmy likes Alisandra," Malcolm said to Maggie, the two of them walking a few paces behind Alisandra and Rembrandt.

"You don't say," commented Maggie, wryly. She gave Malcolm a little wink. "Too bad we're leaving the island in a couple of hours."

"Leaving the island?!" spat out a sharp, sinister voice from behind the trees. "Why leave so soon? You should . . . stay awhile, Maggie!"

Out of the jungle brush emerged Angus Rickman, his eyes filled with a combination of hatred and twisted pleasure.

Maggie nearly lost her breath. "Colonel Rickman?!" she exclaimed, frozen in her path, not wanting to believe the reality before her.

The colonel shot Maggie a devious grin and narrowed his eyes. "Yes, it's me, Maggie."

"But how could you . . . ?" Maggie studied Rickman's face. His facial exterior was still covered with clusters of bushy hair, a result of the brain fluid he'd presumably injected from huminals on the island. "I saw you fall off the cliffs when you tried to follow Remmy and Wade through the wormhole!"

Rickman exposed his razor sharp teeth. "Obviously, I recovered."

Rembrandt was on his toes, aiming his gun at Rickman. He advanced forward. "You're dead, colonel!"

"You killed my father!" Malcolm shouted. He looked like he could kill Rickman.

Alisandra had backed away as Rembrandt focused his weapon on Rickman.

"Ah, young Malcolm," Rickman nodded at the young adolescent. "And Mr. Brown. I see you found your way back to this world. And Maggie," he reached out to touch Maggie's hair. "Your tresses are now a lovely shade of blonde!"

"Don't touch me!" Maggie growled through gritted teeth. Her finger was pressed against the trigger of her gun. "I won't miss this time!"

"But that, my dear, is where you're wrong." Rickman smirked and took a few small steps backward.

In a split second, a large net had dropped from the sky, entrapping Malcolm, Rembrandt, and Maggie, pinning them to the ground. A fleet of huminals pranced upon the netted prey, fiercely surrounding the three humans.

"Alisandra, run!" Rembrandt called out.

Alisandra took off, running back the way they'd originally come.

"She's getting away!" one of the hybrids informed Rickman.

"Forget about her, Ceres," grinned Rickman, cunningly, to his ally. "We have the ones we need. The others will come for them."

Rickman's huminal cronies began dragging their netted captives away. A couple of the hybrids had confiscated Rembrandt's and Maggie's guns.

Meanwhile, Alisandra finally made it back to her and Libra's hut. She rushed through the hut's doorway, panting heavily.

"Alisandra? What's wrong?" Diana stood up. "Where are Remmy, Maggie, and Malcolm?"

Alisandra struggled to catch her breath. She was winded from her desperate run. "Rickman . . . he . . . caught . . . them."

"Rickman? Who's Rickman?" inquired Janine.

"Isn't he that crazy colonel Maggie always talks about, the guy from her homeworld?" Mallory looked at Diana. "You know, the one who Maggie said sucked out people's brain tissue with a needle."

"Oh, HIM!" Diana realized who Alisandra was talking about. "I thought Maggie said he was dead? He fell off a cliff or something?"

Alisandra shook her head. "I meant . . . to tell you . . . earlier." She paused, still trying to catch her breath. "Rickman . . . he survived his fall. Some of the hybrids . . . nursed him back to health. He is . . . one of them now."

"He's been living here all this time?" Mallory asked.

Nodding fervently, Alisandra grabbed Mallory's hand. "I know where . . . Rickman's cave is. We must . . . rescue them. He'll kill . . . Rembrandt and the others."

"Not if we kill him first!" declared Janine, gripping her gun.

"We'd better go then," Mallory said. He bent down and picked up Libra. "I'll have to carry you, since you can't walk."

Diana pulled out the timer. "We've got just over an hour. We'd better hurry."

* * *

"So Maggie," Rickman stared menacingly at his former subordinate, who was locked inside a cage with Rembrandt and Malcolm in Rickman's cave, "where have you been all this time? My friends," he made a side glance at Ceres and some of the other hybrids, "claimed to have seen you vortex off this world with Mallory." Rickman crinkled his nose at the thought of Quinn. "Where is Mr. Mallory? And Miss Wells, for that matter?"

Maggie shot a deadly scowl at Rickman. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"Oh wouldn't I?" Rickman irritably held up his old timer, which was now counting up. "This was carelessly left behind when you departed the island years ago. I've been saving this device for the past two years, hoping someday I could slide after you for revenge. As you can see, I still have 27 years left."

"Are we supposed to feel sorry for you?" Rembrandt patronized him.

"You obviously still possess a timer of your own, or else you would not have been able to slide back here. Where is it?!" Rickman blared at them.

"Our friends have it," Malcolm told Rickman. "And there's no way in hell they'll ever give it away to you."

"Ah, so there ARE more of you?" Rickman's eyes lit up.

"I saw three others," Ceres piped up. "Two women and a man."

"New friends, I suspect?" Rickman gazed at Maggie once again.

"How did you survive your fall off the cliff?" Maggie demanded, pouting.

"Ceres knew the timer would be of no use without me to operate it," Rickman explained, smiling thankfully at Ceres. "So he and the others took care of me, made sure I got well again. Fortunately, I had only broken my legs and sprained my back. To think, I could have actually died!"

"What a pity," mumbled Rembrandt.

"So now," Rickman announced, "if your fellow sliders want you back, they'll hand over their timer to me."

"Rickman!" Alisandra's voice flowed from the opening of the cave. She stood there defiantly with Mallory, Diana, Janine, and Libra gathered around her. "Let them go!"

"Ah, more guests?" Rickman aimed one of the machine guns at them. Several of the hybrids moved toward the free sliders. "So I assume you have been traveling with Maggie and Mr. Brown? Give me your timer, and I will set your friends free."

"Don't listen to him!" Maggie cried out.

"The timer, please?" Rickman solicited, expectantly. It was not a request; it was an order.

"I don't think so, wolfboy." Janine aimed her gun at Rickman. "Don't try anything cute or I'll blast your ass right back to Transylvania."

"You know, you've got spunk." Rickman gave Janine a slight smile. His smile quickly turned into a frown. "I HATE spunk!"

"Well I hate arrogance, so I guess that makes us even," Janine shot back.

"I can try to fix your timer," Diana offered to Rickman. "I'm a physicist. If I repair your timer, then will you let them go?"

"Diana, no!" Rembrandt protested. "It'll be a trap!"

Rickman still had a tight hold on one of the machine guns. "Fine. It's over there." He pointed to a rock where he'd set his timer down. "IF you can repair it for me, I'll release your friends."

"Don't believe him!" Malcolm shouted.

Mallory set Libra down on the ground. "And what if she can't fix it?"

Rickman glanced from Mallory to Diana to Janine to Alisandra. "Then you all die," he cackled. "Along with your friends."

Diana began to take apart Rickman's timer. She started to readjust some of the wires inside of it. "I can't make any guarantees," she cautioned Rickman. "I've had limited experience with repairing an actual sliding timer."

"Rickman won't let us go no matter what you do!" Maggie reemphasized. "You guys can't trust him!"

But Diana continued to tinker with Rickman's timer. "We have no choice, Maggie."

"Aren't you a smart cookie," Rembrandt slyly observed, cocking his head at Diana. As Rickman gave the signal, several of his hybrids inched intrusively toward Dr. Davis.

"Oh no you don't!" Janine barked, aiming her gun at the hybrids. "I'm not letting you losers help yourselves to a Diana smorgasbord."

Rickman leveled his gun straight at Janine's abdomen. "Put the weapon down, miss."

"You put yours down," Janine firmly retorted.

In a rapid flash, Mallory lunged at Rickman, tackling the hairy colonel. Rickman dropped his gun, and it clattered to the ground.

The huminals all rushed over in an attempt to aid Rickman from Mallory's attack. But Janine took that opportunity to expediently shoot each of the huminals dead, one by one. Angling her weapon at the cage which entrapped Remmy, Malcolm, and Maggie, Janine shouted to them, "Stand back, folks!" With a swift pull of her semiautomatic trigger, Janine blew the lock right off their cage.

Rembrandt pushed the cage door open, and he, Maggie, and Malcolm fled from their entrapment, as free as birds.

Mallory and Rickman were on the ground, rolling around and wrestling in the dust. Both of them were trying to get ahold of a gun that laid nearby, a few feet away.

"I can't get a clear shot!" Janine said, trying to angle her gun at Rickman who rolled around with Mallory. She didn't want to shoot Mallory by accident.

Maggie grabbed the third machine gun and fired it at Rickman. But nothing came out of the gun. "Damn, this one's out of ammo!"

Rickman pulled a knife out of his pocket and sliced it into Mallory's arm. Mallory cringed, howling in pain. Rembrandt rushed over and stood in front of Mallory. "Your time is up, Rickman!" Rembrandt had pure hatred in his eyes.

"Remmy, move out of the way so I can kill Rickman!" hollered Janine.

"It was nice knowing you, Mr. Brown," sneered Rickman, pointing his knife at Rembrandt's chest. "But now I'm afraid it's time to say goodbye."

As Rickman prepared to lunge his knife at Rembrandt, Alisandra flung herself in front of the Cryin' Man to protect him. "NO!!!" she screamed at Rickman.

Upon aiming for Rembrandt, Rickman unintentionally shoved the knife through Alisandra's stomach. The exotic huminal beauty collapsed backwards into Rembrandt's arms.

"Alisandra!" Rembrandt cried out helplessly.

Rickman grabbed his timer from Diana - - who had actually been putting the finishing touches on its repair - - and made a run for it.

Maggie grabbed the other operable gun and fired it after Rickman. Janine did likewise with her gun. But neither of them could make a clear shot at the insane colonel. He had escaped into the jungle.

"Dammit!" Maggie threw her gun down to the ground. "I almost had him! How much time left, Diana?"

"Under a minute," Diana told Maggie, taking the sliders' timer out of her pocket.

Alisandra slumped back across Rembrandt's lap. She bled both internally and externally. She was dying.

Malcolm kneeled down next to Rembrandt as tears slid down the Cryin' Man's face. They both gazed longingly into Alisandra's damp, glimmering eyes.

"Goodbye . . . Rembrandt," whispered Alisandra, as she took her final breaths while stroking Rembrandt's cheek. "I . . . love . . . you." She closed her eyes and died.

Rembrandt blubbered, hugging the deceased Alisandra close to him amidst his tears. Malcolm embraced Rembrandt supportively.

The rest of the sliders watched silently, in grief.

"If we ever meet up with that bastard again," Rembrandt scowled while sniffling, "I'll kill him!"

"Not if I beat you to it," Maggie grumbled angrily.

"Remmy, we don't have much time," Mallory said. "The vortex is going to open at any moment."

Maggie turned to Diana. "How far do you think Rickman will get?"

Diana shrugged. "I don't know. His timer was similar to ours, and I tried to re-calibrate it by rerouting the inner structure of his timer to set him on a random sliding course. But God only knows if it worked. The timer could malfunction, and he'd be stuck here for the remainder of his life."

"However long that may last," added Janine, tilting her head pointedly toward the sounds of huminals screeching from the jungle outside of the cave.

" Or the vortex could collapse if he managed to jump through it . . . if it's unstable," Diana offered another possibility.

"Either way, as long as I'm there to see it . . ." Maggie trailed off.

"Well, it's time." Diana extended the timer and opened up the wormhole.

"Come on, Remmy." Malcolm led the mourning Rembrandt into the swirling vortex; Janine followed them, still toting her machine gun.

"I hope Rickman falls off another cliff and doesn't get back up this time," Maggie said bitterly. She dove forward into the vortex, flanked by Diana and Mallory.

* * *

Relaxing in her off-white marble bathtub, a young woman blew playfully at the sudsy bubbles she'd scooped up in her hand from her warm, soothing bubblebath.

In another second, a majestic pink vortex opened up above the woman while she lounged in her bathtub. One by one, Rembrandt, Malcolm, Janine, Maggie, Diana, and Mallory each were expelled from the glistening wormhole. Each of them plopped downward into the wet, soapy bubblebath, surrounding the woman.

The naked woman - - her bare body covered only by thick, sudsy bubbles - - let out a piercing shriek, scared silly by these six strangers who'd landed around her in the tub.

* * *

Still stuck on Hybrid World, Angus Rickman examined his timer which Diana Davis claimed to have "repaired" for him.

Rickman's timer was counting down. He still had two days left on this hellish world. The colonel tried activating the timer, but nothing happened. He'd have to wait at least 48 more hours before sliding randomly - - if he was able to slide at all.

"I'll find you, sliders," he whispered, harshly and psychotically. "And then you will be sorry!"


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